Life history and chemical defense interact to drive patterns of adaptation in an annual monkeyflower

Anna Scharnagl, Mark A. Genung, Liza M. Holeski, Nicholas J. Kooyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although chemical defenses and herbivore pressure are widely established as key targets and agents of selection, their roles in local adaptation and determining potential evolutionary responses to changing climates are often neglected. Here, we explore fitness differences between 11 rangewide M. guttatus populations in a field common garden experiment and assess the agents and targets of selection driving relative fitness patterns. We use piecewise structural equation models to disentangle associations between chemical defenses, (phenylpropanoid glycosides; PPGs), and life history traits with herbivory and fitness. While the historical environment of populations is not predictive of fitness differences between populations, >90% of variation in fitness can be predicted by the flowering time and foliar PPG defense arsenal of a population. Piecewise structural equation models indicate that life history traits, particularly earlier flowering time, are strongly and directly linked to fitness. However, herbivory, particularly fruit predation, is also an important agent of selection that creates indirect links between fitness and both chemical defenses and life history traits. Our results emphasize the multivariate nature of the agents and targets of selections in producing adaptation and suggest that future responses to selection must navigate a complex fitness landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-383
Number of pages14
JournalEvolution; international journal of organic evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 4 2023


  • Erythranthe guttata
  • Mimulus guttatus (common monkeyflower)
  • common garden
  • flowering time
  • frugivory
  • herbivory
  • piecewise structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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